This past weekend (May 30th-June 1st) in Austin, TX, NACA hosted around 110 members for the 2013 Fair Credit Reporting Act Conference. Held over 2.5 days, the conference featured a number of informative sessions taught by the leaders in the field, a NACA sponsored wine and beer reception, and a touching memorial in remembrance of Bud Hibbs.
Robert Sola kicked things off with a presentation on the ABC’s of the FCRA. The ABC’s sessions, featured at all NACA and NCLC conferences, present an opportunity for newcomers to orient to a topic in which they may have little experience. More experienced practitioners attend as well to brush up on anything new, and to serve as a resource to newer members. Robert covered the basics of the FCRA, including its three primary purposes of accuracy, privacy, and disclosure.
Following the ABC’s session were several overview sessions on FCRA litigation, the intersection of landlord/tenant issues, and the consumer reporting industry itself. NACA’s Legislative Director, Ellen Taverna, and NCLC’s Chi Chi Wu gave several legislative and regulatory updates on the FCRA. The CFPB has new authority and ability to reform the credit reporting system. The CFPB can write regulations to implement almost all of the provisions of the FCRA, including the provisions regarding accuracy and the dispute process. In addition, the CFPB has new supervisory authority over the “larger participants” of the credit reporting industry and we are pushing them to use its supervisory authority to fully investigate whether consumer reporting agencies are complying with the FCRA and other consumer financial laws and work with the FTC to better enforce these violations. There are also measures that Congress can take as well to help consumers. A consumer should have the right to ask a court to order the nationwide CRAs and furnishers to correct an error when it appears in his or her own credit report. For information on legislative developments, contact Ellen Taverna at NACA.
Thursday evening, NACA hosted a reception for attendees, which provided an excellent opportunity for old friends to catch up and for new friends to meet. The conference featured attendees from 28 states, with the most coming from California and Florida.
The final 1.5 days of the conference featured tactical litigation sessions on FCRA intake, defendant selection, five sessions on discovery, dispositive motions, and finally (and most popular), a session on settlement valuation and strategy. These presentations featured, for the first time, a series of break-out sessions led by experienced practitioners distributed among each of the tables of participants.
The group leaders gave brief presentations and then walked participants through a sample fact pattern used across all of the tactical sessions. This turned out to be a very successful model as it gave participants an opportunity to apply the information we were learning right then and there. At the end of each breakout session, the group leaders took questions from participants on their own cases. Aside from valuable feedback these practitioners received on their own cases, the rest of the group got to hear about a variety of ongoing and potential FCRA matters in varying contexts. In cases where group leaders ran out of time, cards were exchanged for participants to follow up later. It is this camaraderie that makes NACA members feel like we have access to big firm resources while practicing in small groups or individually. Kudos to the FCRA Conference Committee on this experiment.
Finally, recently deceased consumer advocate Bud Hibbs was honored on Friday afternoon with the Bud Hibbs Memorial Plaque presented by Stewart Miller, also known as Randy, to Bud’s family, who was in attendance for Friday’s luncheon. Those who knew Bud recall his zealous style of advocacy. Those who tangled with Bud, thinking he was a lone consumer on a crusade, quickly learned that Bud had hundreds of consumer lawyers at his back. In Bud’s honor, a scholarship has been established to send one new consumer advocate to the NCLC Litigation conference each year.
All in all, another excellent conference put on by NACA with Chelsea Langston at the helm . With Seattle, Baltimore, and Austin behind us, we all wait for November in DC. NACA Executive Director Ira Rheingold announced an afternoon of lobbying on Capitol Hill, to take place the afternoon before the start of the 2013 NCLC litigation conference, on Wednesday, November 6th. Ellen Taverna will send out details closer to the event.
About the Author
Michael Wood has been a member of NACA since 2011, when he left Fortune 100 corporate management to attend law school in Chicago, IL. Mike practices as a senior law student under Ill. S. Ct. Rule 711, and is currently working with other consumer advocates to address the debt buyer problem in Cook County, IL, through a new project called Debtors Legal Aid, which provides direct legal services and education to consumers experiencing predatory debt collection. Mike can be found on twitter @mikewoodondebt, or by email: mike[at]michaeljacobwood.com.